Even if you don't have a home packed with smart devices, a smart speaker can still be a great way to play music and get information. So if you're looking for your first one or just want to add to an existing setup, Best Buy is offering its exclusive Insignia Voice smart Bluetooth speaker with built-in Google Assistant for just $36.99 right now. The Bluetooth speaker looks like a standard alarm clock but it comes with Google Assistant built in for hands-free control. Once connected to your smartphone, the speaker can access a variety of popular online streaming services as well as your own Google Play music library to listen to a wide range of music in multiple rooms at once. And if you have other smart devices in your home, you'll be able to control them as well just by asking Google Assistant to turn off the lights or turn up the thermostat.
Microsoft wants your PC's hardware to get smart--and your gaming foes to become even more devious. Earlier this month, the company revealed Windows ML, an API that taps into your computer's CPU and GPU to bolster your software with machine learning capabilities. At GDC 2018 on Monday, Microsoft explained how Windows ML can benefit video games, and introduced new "DirectML" tools that provide GPU hardware acceleration for games that use WinML, built on the same no-hassle-for-gamers principles as the DirectX standard. What does it all mean? Machine learning can make games prettier, more adaptable to individual playstyles, and easier to create, Microsoft says.
The PC industry is finally making a push toward a "holy grail" rendering technique that makes computer-generated imagery in movies appear so much more lifelike than the graphics in games. At GDC 2018 on Monday, Microsoft introduced a new "DirectX Raytracing" (DXR) feature for Windows 10's DirectX 12 graphics API. To coincide with the announcement, Nvidia announced "RTX technology" for enhanced DXR support in upcoming Volta graphics cards, as well as new ray tracing tools for its GameWorks library that can help developers deploy the technology faster. Likewise, AMD said it's "collaborating with Microsoft to help define, refine and support the future of DirectX 12 and ray tracing." And top gaming engines like Unity, Unreal, and Frostbite are already planning to integrate DirectX Raytracing.
Too lazy to get out of bed to turn the lights on or off? Have I got a light switch for you! At its simplest, Lutron's Caséta Dimmer is a four-button in-wall light switch with both on/off and dimmer controls built in. But the real fun comes in the form of a wireless remote control that offers the same functions and which you can put just about anywhere. Whether that means dimming the bedroom lights from under the covers or controlling an exterior light from the other side of the house, the Caséta remote is versatile and, throughout my testing, never missed a beat.
The Pivot Table is a tool that Excel uses to create custom reports from your spreadsheet databases. Once you select the portion of your spreadsheet that contains the target data, then define it as a Table and name it, it becomes a Pivot Table, which is subject to all of the Pivot Table tools. With these tools, you can filter, sort, reorganize, calculate, and summarize one database Table or several Tables. You can extract specific information into a separate, custom report that displays only the relevant information required for your current project. To make it easier for you to practice the tasks we're about to describe, we've created a downloadable Excel workbook with all the data we use in this article.
Google has begun rolling out Routines, a new feature of Google Assistant that allows users to string together a number of actions with a single phrase. There are six routines in the initial roll out: "Good morning," "Bedtime," Leaving home," "I'm, home," Commuting to work," and Commuting home." . To use them, go into the Google Home app, click the "hamburger" menu icon (the three horizontal bars in the top right), scroll down and click "more settings." Inside the services group, you should find Routines. If not, you'll need to update the app.
Drones are pretty nifty devices, but the prices for the best ones can often feel as high as the altitudes the drones can reach. Fortunately, B&H currently has a one-day sale on the DJI Phantom 4 Advanced Quadcopter that lets you pick up the device for $370 off the regular price of $1,199. All total, you'll be paying just $829 as B&H is offering free shipping. The quadcopter flies at around 44 miles per hour and can stay up in the air for around 30 minutes. It also comes with five sensors for avoiding obstacles, and its 20MP camera can capture 4K video with a range of 4.35 miles.
Smart bulbs are great starting points when creating the connected home of your dreams. Because they connect to Wi-Fi, you can adjust them from an app, and control them via voice commands with your smart speakers. They also offer an awesome level of granular control, whether that means setting them on timers, or controlling their precise brightness levels and color profiles. For the smart home-curious, Philips has put its entry-level smart bulb kit on sale. The Hue White A19 60W Equivalent Smart Bulb Starter Kit is $44.99 on Amazon now--a significant price drop from its average offering of around $65.
Amazon's Alexa is becoming less hospitable to people who prefer to buy music instead of just signing up for a music subscription service such as Spotify. Until recently, Amazon Music Storage was the best way to stream your personal music collection onto Alexa devices--provided it was encoded as MP3 files. But in December, Amazon stopped supporting new uploads for the free service; it stopped accepting paid subscriptions a month later. In January 2019, Amazon will shut down Music Storage entirely, rendering your MP3 collection inaccessible on Echo devices unless you purchased the songs directly through Amazon's digital store. To play your own MP3s (or music encoded in other formats, such as FLAC) on the Echo or other Alexa devices, you can still use Plex or My Media Server for Alexa, both of which allow you to stream songs that you've stored on another device.
Ever since the debut of Cortana within Windows 10, Microsoft has tried to inject Windows with artificial intelligence. Now it's getting even more serious with a new API, called Windows ML, that will tap your CPU or GPU to make Windows and its apps even smarter. Windows ML will debut within the "next major update to Windows 10," presumably the "Redstone 4" update set to be released to hardware partners this month. Since it's an API, every developer who writes apps for Windows will be able to take advantage of the new AI capabilities. In the future, Microsoft said, Windows ML might even take advantage of an entirely new chip: a machine vision or visual processing chip designed by a subsidiary of Intel, called Movidius.